On Thursday 6 April 1972, the Bush Theatre was established above The Bush public house on the corner of Goldhawk Road and Shepherd's Bush Green, in what was once the dance studio of Lionel Blair. It was established by a maverick actor, Brian McDermott, who used to tour the Fringe. The venue, despite its fame and massive output, was intimate, only holding a maximum audience of approximately 80. The first production was an adaption of The Collector by John Fowles, directed by John Neville and starring Annette Andre and Brian McDermott.
Throughout 1992, the Bush Theatre celebrated 20 years at the frontier of new writing. "What has held the Bush together for 20 years? Blind faith, youthful commitment and a tenacious belief in new writing: above all, perhaps, the conviction that new work deserves the highest standards in acting, direction and design," The Guardian. The Bush won The Empty Space Award for the year's work, which included Billy Roche's Bush plays A Handful Of Stars, Poor Beatin The Rain and Belfry playing in repertory as The Wexford Trilogy, which toured to Wexford Opera House and the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.
In November 2010, the Bush Theatre announced it would be leaving its home of nearly forty years and moving to the old Passmore Edwards Public Library building, round the corner from its own home, on Uxbridge Road.
The relocation took place in 2011 and opened with the "Sixty-Six Books" project. This was a celebration of the anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible, which used 66 different writers, many of whom were veterans of the Bush.
That same year, Artistic Director Josie Rourke announced her departure from the Bush to take up the position of Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse. The Board appointed Madani Younis as her successor from January 2012. In 2013, newly appointed Madani Younis programmed the theatre's most successful season to date, which saw the theatre play to 99% capacity.
In Spring 2016, the Bush Theatre relocated its plays to found spaces around Shepherd's Bush and Notting Hill, as the former library building closed for the largest capital project in the theatre’s history. Borrowing new and iconic spaces with their own histories and tales of the local community, this season of work welcomed new audiences and residents by offering a number of free and subsidised theatre tickets to local people.
In March 2017, following a landmark year of taking plays into the communities of West London, the Bush Theatre will return home following a £4.3m revitalisation of the venue. The year-long redevelopment was driven by the aim of realising Artistic Director Madani Younis’ vision for a theatre that reflected the diversity and vibrancy of London. Upon reopening, the building will be more sustainable and entirely accessible, with a new entrance, front-of-house area and exterior garden terrace to the main street.